tv ABC World News With Diane Sawyer ABC May 23, 2011 5:30pm-6:00pm PDT
where some of the strongest tonight, this is "world news" from joplin, missouri, where some of the strongest people in america are being put to the test. >> i have a large destructive tornado on the southwest side of joplin. >> the storm's fury, random, unforgiving. families hover in horror as it roars overhead. and we have the astonishing survival stories. how one mother rode out the storm with her son. the hospital patients rushed into the hallways enduring as the hospital disintegrates around them. and the rescues from the rubble. seven survivors inside a home depot. tonight, direct hit, an american tragedy in joplin.
good evening tonight from joplin, missouri where, as we said, some of the strongest people in the country are yet undergoing another punishing storm. more lightning, more wind, on top of that deadly tornado. the single deadliest tornado in more than 60 years. we are here in joplin, 160 miles south of kansas city, where a six-mile path of destruction cuts through the heart of the city. it is a storm so ferocious it actually stripped the bark of the trees. at least 116 lives lost. 2,000 homes and buildings destroyed. and seven people have been rescued. more all the time. the rescue teams are not far from us and they will be working through the night. and we did learn that behind every story of survival is also a story of resilience. one woman told us how they rode out the storm in her closet.
are ya'll okay? >> yes. >> reporter: are you really? >> yes, we're alive. >> reporter: what happened when the tornado actually -- >> you could just hear glass breaking and you could just -- it was as if you were standing there in it and just watching it all happen. we were in this closet right here. and me and my son were back in this area. >> reporter: could you feel the wind where you were? you could feel the rain and the wind where you were? >> yes. >> reporter: were you having to hold on to your son? >> yes. he was holding on to my arms. and i had him in my arms, squeezing, telling him over and over again, we're going to be okay, we're going to be okay. it was horrible. horrible, horrible, horrible. it's one of those things you see on tv happening everywhere else but never in missouri. >> the abc news team is spread you'd across the disaster zone tonight. but we're going to begin with what the residents of joplin saw they saw and heard and what they got on tape as that tornado bore down.
>> there it is. there it is. oh, gosh, that is a monster tornado. >> i got to turn around. >> oh, it's getting big, big, big, big, big. >> that's huge >> oh, my god. [ screaming ] >> heavenly father. >> jesus. >> it has been a punishing series of storms that have been moving through here, and as we said before, some of the strongest people in this country
have been asked to bear a little more as it continues to pour, the wind continues. as you can see all around, david muir and me here, it's 360-degree apocalyptic destruction. 25% of this town and possibly even more have been destroyed. today, you charted the path of the tornado right through the center of joplin. >> we revisited this route. diane, and as you know, in these frantic hours afterwards, rescuers were calling from the scene, calling dispatchers and saying to themselves on the line, i think we're standing in what used to be the home depot, what used to be the high school, and take a look at the route. >> it's a massive tornado, just massive destruction. >> reporter: those tornado sirens went off, just 20 minutes of warning, but the winds so deafening, many here said they couldn't hear the alarms. and then it hit. from the air today, you could see it. and from the ground as we retrace the twister's deadly route, we saw it with our own eyes.
you can see that this entire neighborhood is completely flattened. it's eerily quite. homes damaged or destroyed. janet stevenson's home one of them. she took us to the bathroom where she was huddled and praying. on the other side of the wall, another townhouse. her neighbor. the two women would knock on the wall, a signal that they were both still alive. were you pounding on the wall? >> yes, and she was pounding back, so i knew somebody was there. >> reporter: so you were saying prayers on both sides of the wall? >> you bet, you bet, many, many prayers. >> reporter: we're glad you're okay. >> oh, thank you. >> reporter: so many of her neighbors did not make it. she took us upstairs, showing us the view from her bedroom. you can see the roof, completely gone from the top of the house. and the bedrooms have no walls anymore. the powerful ef-4 twister had 200 mile per hour winds. in all, it left a six-mile path of destruction at times, four miles wide. the massive twister touching down at 5:40 local time, where it sheered off the roof of that hospital, st. john's, sucking
the windows right out of the patient's rooms. the hospital paralyzed. as it continued through joplin, subdivisions gone. streets now lined with foundations where homes once stood. next, joplin high school. roofs peeled off. then the walmart, now a pile of debris, where a giant store stood just yesterday, shoppers inside. entire neighborhoods here have been wiped off the map. you can see all that's left of these homes. as far as you can see that way and really as far as you can see this way as well. and this truck here that we just walked past, we couldn't help but to notice the bell is still ringing inside. as they stood in front of their home, now gone, they all survived in the bathroom. they saved a 3-year-old girl across the street as her mother screamed from the second floor. >> we had the little girl. >> we had her. and her grandma -- >> came and got her but her parents are both gone. >> reporter: she lost both of her parents? >> both of her parents. >> well, david, unbelievable stories you found all along the way. we should say there's sirens here because they're still attempting rescues not far from us. but you went to the high school as well? >> reporter: we did, we heard so
much about the high school. the roof ripped off the top. and as you know, graduation day was yesterday here in joplin, but they held graduation off campus. everyone talking about what a blessing that was. >> and a little bit later, we'll tell everyone some of what was said at the graduation, which still gives people hope here today. and i want to give you a sense of how far this tornado carried what was in st. john's hospital. you talked about the windows being blown out there. let me just read it to you. a lord's prayer was found 85 miles away. prescriptions were found 50 miles away. x-rays, 70 miles away. and, again, inside the hospital, everyone was just clinging to hope. as the tornado, right out of a nightmare, tore through joplin, citizens huddled inside buildings in the dark. [ screaming ] listen as these people feel sense what's around them. [ screaming ] >> jesus, jesus.
>> reporter: a scene also described by sheila and mark harrington as they huddled inside a giant hospital, st. john's, in the emergency room. >> there was no light -- >> the power went off. >> we had very little flashlights. they were screaming and looking for their loved ones and saying that they couldn't find them and they wanted someone to help them. >> reporter: more than 100 patients were inside the nine-story hospital. gurneys, wheelchairs, tossed hundreds of yards away. x-rays, medical records, dumped two counties away, 60 miles, carried by the tornado. and inside the hospital, there was triage, there was rushing to help but, still, so many died. rod pace, one of the medical flight managers, described holding on to a door, trying to keep it shut against the suction, as it tore the building apart. >> we were holding the door closed. we were trying to hold the door closed. it felt like the door would move. i've heard people talk about a building and how it breathes when it's on fire. >> reporter: right.
>> it felt like that building was breathing and that door would move in and out. >> reporter: could you feel the suction? did it pull on you? >> oh, yeah. >> reporter: what happened? >> well, we just moved in and out with the door, and the door never came open -- >> reporter: holding on to it like this? >> it's an automatic locking door. essentially, i was leaning into that door and one of the pilots was basically holding on to me. >> reporter: in the aftermath, the entire hospital evacuated in just 90 minutes. medical personnel loading patients up on the backs of pickup trucks and rushing them to a nearby hospital or another triage center. some held the i.v. poles for the patients. while seeing all around them a scene from armageddon. >> this structure's been here a long, long time, and it's meant a lot to the people who work in it. it's meant a lot to this community. and that is -- that's a major devastation. >> and it was an incredible scene at that hospital, as all
around this city. once again, we were just standing in the middle of lightning strikes and incredible bolts of thunder. and yet the rescue teams are still out tonight, still looking for someone, listening for someone, and josh elliot has spent his day with some of those rescue teams. josh. >> reporter: that's right, diane. it was more than 24 hours ago now that search and rescue teams mobilized and came here, negotiating all these twisted piles of debris, such as this one, in a search for survivors, and they've enjoyed a measure of success. late word tonight that they've pulled seven people alive from the town's wreckage. still, on this day, for these teams, there was much searching but very few rescues. just a whopper of a twister here. this is just incredible damage. >> reporter: doug westhoff has worked search and rescue for over three decades, including september 11th and hurricane katrina, but last night's killer tornado still took his breath away. his missouri task force one was
in joplin just hours after the devastating twister struck. >> when you have widespread damage like this, you really just have to prior prioritize. where are these people likely at? how many might be in certain areas? >> reporter: doug and his team of 80, many of whom are volunteers, spent most of the day scouring stores like this walmart for survivors. this section of this massive chain store had its roof torn off as the twister made its way through. as you can see, also reducing its outer wall to mere pieces of rubble. inside right now, the search and rescue workers are making their way, aisle by aisle, on the off chance that anyone is still trapped in here alive. they found no one alive inside and continued searching in the parking lot among the mangled mess of cars. search and rescue worker erin venavle and her dog pick have been on the job now for roughly 20 hours. how much longer will your team be at it? >> you know, we'll be at it until they tell us they don't need us anymore, until every single person is accounted for. >> reporter: across the street at the home depot, rescue workers did find eight people.
seven were alive. one killed by the storm. and they aren't done searching. for gary england believes his brother is still inside. he found his truck in the parking lot. >> they haven't found him yet. we'll keep looking or we'll be out here till we find him. >> reporter: and it's stories like the rescue of this man that are giving people in joplin hope tonight. a text message to his friend that saved his life. >> yeah, he's my friend, my best friend. yeah, i just got a message from him. he said, "i'm stuck." >> reporter: and for weary teams, certainly, they can use all the help they can get. and to that end, things like text messaging and twitter can be just such that help. in fact, we responded today to one such tweet about a possible -- children trapped in a basement. and i can tell you that, thankfully, when we arrived everybody inside the house was safe and sound.
diane. >> great news. thank you, josh. and as we said, this is the deadliest single tornado in 60 years. sam champion is here, our weather editor. anything account for this? what does it say to you? >> i tell you, the damage that we've seen, diane, and we were talking earlier about it, thinking it had to be an ef-4. and the national weather service preliminary put out an estimate that about 180 miles an hour winds. that's the top wind of a ef-4 tornado. just looking at this damage, you can tell, just by the things being crumpled up, just by the baseboards being cleared and everything around us just destroyed. >> well, that's what everybody is talking about, it took steel as if it was just paper and wrapped it around poles, wrapped it around the cars. but let me get a sense of what's happening right now because this town cannot get a break this day, because storms have been nonstop. is this going to be unending for the next two days? >> what we've just been standing through, the hail that fell right before you went on the air, large hailstones, this
continues for at least two, maybe three days here. this is a stationary pattern and these areas of low pressure will drive storms like this every day for the next two days. >> all right. well, we decided to go out and call some other experts around the country and talk to them a little bit more about what they're seeing in these weather patterns. and i know you'll have more for everyone tomorrow. sam, thank you. i want people to know as well, if you go on dotcom, we have lots of ways you can help the people down here and they sure need it. but when we come back, what do those experts say? everyone's saying, is this it, is this global morning? is this the evidence? is it in? the answer. when your eyes are smiling... you're smiling. and when they're laughing... you're laughing. be kind to your eyes... with transitions lenses.
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it was an incredible weekend of tornadoes. 70 of them in 7 states. and so many people have been asking the same question, is this it, is this the evidence of a kind of preview of life under global warming? and so jim avila went out to find some answers. >> reporter: shocked and awed by nature. >> this is crazy. you know, this is like a war zone. >> reporter: tony evans is helping his friend clean up today in minneapolis after yet another destructive tornado in this, the deadliest season in 58 years. >> we've been taking the earth for granted, you know. now i guess it's paying us back. >> reporter: hit by the big three tornado outbreaks of 2011. first mid-april. 24 people die in north carolina. then tuscaloosa, alabama, later that month, ground zero for a line of tornadoes that killed more than 300. and now at least 116 dead in joplin. are we imagining it or are their actually more tornadoes this year?
the answer is a dramatic yes. 1,000 and counting so far. compared to 500 in an average year. and these are of the deadly variety. 50 killer tornadoes so far this year, more than double the normal 20. >> this year has really been just the perfect year for tornadoes. >> reporter: climatologist heidi cullen writes about global warming and says while climate change has increased humanity humidity levels and can be blamed for a general increase in extreme weather, science cannot specifically point to climate change for this hyperdeadly tornado season. >> more extreme events like floods, more extreme events like droughts, heat waves, wildfires. those are phenomenon we very much expect to see more of as we move into a warmer world. >> reporter: still we don't know whether or not tornados are to be lumped into that extreme weather? >> we don't have enough data to really make the case. >> reporter: so what is the weather reason for this year's tornado spree? colder than normal temperatures off the washington/oregon coast
jet streaming into hot humid gulf air in the south and midwest. meteorologists call it la nina. in tornado alley, some just call it nature's payback. jim avila, abc news, new york. >> and we thought you'd like to see what this payback looks like all around us. we're going to turn the cameras around right now if i can show you. this is it. these are the trees. these are the houses as far as the eye can see. and we're going to take a break. when we come back, george stephanopoulos will have the rest of the day's news and then i'll be back once again from joplin, missouri. f the day's news and then i'll be back once again from joplin, missouri. the count on chevy event is here. your ticket to a cruze eco. 42 mpg and over 500 highway miles a tank. one of our 9 models over 30 mpg highway. fuel up, rock on. very well qualified lessees can get a low mileage lease on a chevy cruze eco for around $159 a month. fuel economy based on epa estimates. and there's a great selection of inventory available now
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agenda today was largely personal. it's been said that mr. obama is a melting pot president, part kansas, part kenya. today, he got a chance to explore yet another side of his heritage, one that reaches back to a tiny town in ireland. jack tapper was there. >> reporter: in ireland this afternoon, president obama introduced himself in a brand-new way. >> my name is barack obama -- of the moneygall obamas. >> reporter: moneygall, a town of not even 300 that welcomed the president earlier today. an american genealogist traced the president's maternal great great great great grandfather fulmouth kearney to moneygall and to this church before he emigrated to ohio in 1850. that genealogist also traced a distinct presidential trait to fulmouth's sister. >> i think that's where he got the ears from. >> reporter: pursuing some
family history and some guinness at a local pub. >> i just want you to know that the president pays his bar tab. >> reporter: the president and first lady took a moment to hug henry healy, his eighth cousin. the president called him henry the viii. >> hello, ireland. >> reporter: a campaign-style celebration awaited the president in dublin where his irish eyes -- and ears -- were smiling. jack tapper, abc news, dublin, ireland. >> and when we return, back to diane. in the tornado zone. [ male announcer ] it's simple physics... a body at rest tends to stay at rest... while a body in motion tends to stay in motion. staying active can actually ease arthritis symptoms. but if you have arthritis, staying active can be difficult. prescription celebrex can help relieve arthritis pain so your body can stay in motion. because just one 200mg celebrex a day can provide 24 hour relief for many with arthritis pain and inflammation. plus, in clinical studies, celebrex is proven to improve daily physical function
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new bayer advanced aspirin. as you may have heard, there was a large graduating class receiving diplomas, giving speeches, right before the tornado struck, talking about their love of this town and talking about the future. walk on a neighborhood street in joplin, missouri, knock on any door, and there is a story of amazing survival. >> my husband took his shirt off down the street to give it to an elderly woman that was just bleeding everywhere. >> reporter: neighbors who escaped unscathed helped those who weren't as lucky.
and as the sky continued to pour down rain and lightning struck, alarms continues to ring. there were constant warnings that another tornado could be just around the corner. in this midwest town of 50,000 residents, the people say their strength is just a way of life. it was a pioneering town. the zinc capital of the world. and then a hot spot on route 66. even today, many remember how the town pulled together after the tornadoes in '71 and '73. >> as the memories of times pass, we will find our character as we journey ahead to another chapter in life. >> reporter: yesterday, in the last few hours before the tragedy, the town of joplin was filled with pride and excitement. the high school graduating class took to the stage to accept diplomas. >> meg carlisle -- >> reporter: and promised a future filled with hope. >> i had just gotten home from graduation. i was still in cap and gown when it hit. >> reporter: those speeches, the
search for optimism, the search for light, still echoing even in joplin today. take charge and dream big. smile, it'll make you feel better. and langston hughes, the wonderful poet, said, we here do not walk with darkness, we walk with the sun in the morning. and abc news will be here on that morning, tomorrow morning. "nightline" with a special "nightline" tonight. at abcnews.com, 24 hours a day. as the thunder begins again. more rain pours down from joplin, missouri. i'm diane sawyer, good night. >> the attack on a giant fan and criminal history of a suspected gang member. >> facing lay offs. jobs are cut from the budget but not the new office furniture. >> a daring demonstration below the richmond bridge.
find out why they risk their lives to make a points. >> and defending the round up of thousands of horses . what might happen if they are allowed to roam free. >> we have breaking news. >> you are looking at a live picture from sky 7 hd, a tour bus run off of the interstate. it happened on lion road south of cherry glen. the chp said the bus veered off of the roadway and took out 50 or 60 feet of fence. >> 13 people were taken to the hospital. we don't know how serious they are at point. >> we don't know if there were tourist on board. >> we'll follow that as need be. >> the family of a giants fan nearly beaten to death. after a